PGA Championship winner Koepka retains fantastic form
Paramus, NJ- The Northern Trust began play on Thursday with no clear favorite. Four golfers finished the opening round at -5 for the lead and another 22 finished within two strokes of the lead. Friday arrived with more perfect sunshine and better golf. While the leaderboard is still tight, there were some especially notable performances that separated themselves.
Leading the way was Jamie Lovemark, who started his round at noon tied for the lead. At round’s end, the 30 year old from San Diego, CA, remained tied for the lead. He came firing off the blocks, recording a birdie on his first hole, the 9th. He fumbled the 11th hole, with a drive into the bunker. He returned to form by the 14th hole with the birdie. Then, after two pars, the former USC Trojan birdied five of his next six holes to soar up the board. Only a rough drive on 6 that resulted in a bogey slowed him down. Still, he hit 83.33% of greens in regulation and finished in the lead.
He noted his comfort with Ridgewood, despite the challenge. “I love the course. It’s very challenging. I think 5 through 11 are some of the hardest on Tour. The scores might drop off a bit this weekend.”
Lovemark was not alone atop the board at day’s end. Brooks Koepka has ridden a roller coaster the last two years. He won the 2017 US Open, then got surgery for an almost completely ruptured ECU tendon. He fought through a brutal rehab to successfully defend his US Open crown. Then he outlasted Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship for his third major. He walked in sitting third place in the FedEx Cup standings and trying for his first season long crown. Round one of the Northern Trust saw Koepka one stroke off the lead. Round two saw the tested 28 year old take on his major form.
Koepka did start rocky. He carded two birdies and two bogeys on the front, staying at -4. The first two holes on the back saw no changes either, with two pars. Then Koepka clicked on 12, with a remarkable recovery from the bunker for birdie. Then on 13, Koepka eagled the long par five, with a pair of 300+ yard shots and a 22 foot putt. After two pars, Koepka finished with three consecutive birdies for a -6 round and a spot atop the leaderboard.
Koepka felt confident his game would turn before it did. “I wasn’t playing poorly… Just wasn’t how I like to see the golf ball fly. Just had a little too much cut on it and I felt like I couldn’t really start it down the left-hand side. I had to aim a little further left than I would have liked, and once the release kicked in, I felt like the toe head actually released. It was fun to play the last few holes.”
Mathematically, the best round of the day belonged to Adam Scott. The 38 year old Australian recorded four birdies on the front. On the back, Scott stumbled to start with an errant drive and unsuccessful recovery. The next hole, Scott drove into the bunker, but saved par on the hole with clutch chipping. Then on 12, the drive went wide into the crowd. Scott did not panic. He gathered and put the ball on the green, five feet from the hole for an easy birdie putt. Two more birdies followed on 14 and 17, leaving Scott one stroke off the lead.
The sequence on holes 11 and 12 was the defining moment of the year for Scott. “The par on 11 was what I haven’t done most of the year or all year. It just shows momentum is a big thing and kept my round going and I birdied three in a row. I think after that to keep everything feeling good. You know, you make a couple bogeys in a row and make a meal of 12 from everywhere I was, and a round falls apart… Really nice to see, keeping it clean coming in.”
Unfortunately, not everyone could survive the cut today. Among the notable cuts on Friday were Russell Knox, Russell Henley, JB Holmes, and Stewart Cink.
Third round play begins at 7:30 AM on Saturday morning with Martin Laird and Seamus Power on the tee. Other notable starts include Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter at 7:50 AM, Phil Mickelson and Tony Finau at 1 PM, and leaders Jamie Lovemark and Brooks Koepka at 2 PM.